This past weekend, I visited Edinburgh, Scotland with some friends from my study abroad program. Edinburgh is known for its Gothic styled buildings, beautiful coastline and the views of the city. I would have never thought that I would spend a weekend in Scotland but I am quite happy that I made my decision to stay in the UK and see some of the other countries. Taking the train to Scotland was a very pleasant experience. I am used to driving over 4 hours to get from my home in Fort Lauderdale to my university in Gainesville so I have no complaints about sitting for almost 5 hours. The view from the train was absolutely gorgeous. I could see the greenery of the countryside and see how people have migrated and adapted to the climate and landscape of their surroundings. I saw so many sheep, cattle and horse herds as well as the wind turbines and solar panels in large fields to generate energy for the nation. In Europe, they take sustainability seriously and climate change is a very real issue, unlike its discussion in the States where people still try to dispute its existence.
Off the bat, the Scots were very friendly to us as tourists and are proud of their cultural heritage and identity, as they rightfully should be. Leaving London, I did not expect Edinburgh to be as diverse as it was. There were more foreign restaurants than there were Scottish ones (which is good because to be frank, British food is /not/ the move). There were plenty of other tourists, which is not surprising for a capital city.
Although we did not do too much typical sightseeing, I did something I never thought I would do in my life. As a very nonathletic person, the most exercise I do is when I am running for the bus because I took a minute too long to get ready for class, which causes me to have to turn a 15-minute walk from the center of campus to my class into a 7-minute run. I hiked up to Arthur’s Seat, which is in the center of the Holyrood National Park and is a dormant volcano. It was a steep journey and I was not wearing any of the proper hiking gear. I was just in some cheap sneakers from Primark but I managed! Carefully watching my steps, taking my time, and stopping occasionally to admire my hard work at the varying heights that I had made it to encouraged me to keep moving up hill (volcano).
Getting to London was difficult on its own. Although I receive a full ride scholarship to attend my university, it does not cover any of my summer expenses. This is slightly unfortunate but I can use my state grants, such as Bright Futures and the Pell Grant, during the summer which helped me pay a chunk of the program fees. For the past 2 years, I saved most of my scholarship disbursements in order to study abroad. With the help of those who invested in me for this semester, I would not have to opportunity to even afford to be in the United Kingdom. Knowing that my faith, hard work, determination, hope, and the encouragement of my Godmother got me to this point was a reward enough but there’s something different about a physical challenge, like climbing a mountain.
You take into account all the struggles and successes you have experienced in your life that have inspired and sustained you until that moment. As you look off to your side and see how far off the ground you are and wonder if your last moments will be spent on that mountain, you start to become grateful that you’re even alive to be able to ponder about that question. I was healthy enough to climb that mountain, I was physically able and although I was out of breath the entire time, I was breathing some of the cleanest and freshest air I had ever breathed before. It was a cold and windy day but it was a comfort to my sweating body. Even in that, I could be thankful and grateful for the life I am living.
At the top, I could see the entire city of Edinburgh around me. The castle, the palace, the pillars, the coastline, the pride of a nation. While there were many other tourists around me and we were all trying to desperately take pictures to display to our personal social networks our achievement, I was alone in my mind to bask in the scenery and life around me. Of those around me, there were people from countries and cultures that were unlike my own and of all ages (the youngest being a one-year-old baby girl who was sleeping on her father’s back during the hike until she made it to the peak). If those little kids could climb this mountain without fear, if those dogs could run freely around the peak, then the challenges I will face in my future will melt away as I evaluate my capabilities and the strength that I possess. To top off that moment, a brave man was playing his bagpipes slightly downhill from Arthur’s Seat. The sound was soaked up by the air and echoed throughout the park. An intimate moment between a man and his country was shared with the hundreds of visitors. Culture extends beyond what you do, it’s deeply rooted within your soul as one of your core inspirations for life.
Even though I was only in Edinburgh for a weekend, the spirit of the city will always remain. Scotland will preserve its heart and share its beauty with us for as long as we seek a genuine experience. But beware, my legs were in more pain walking up the hill to Edinburgh Castle than they were up to Arthur’s Seat, cobblestone and rain covered streets are /not/ your friend. Even though it may rain, clear the droplets off your glasses so you can see the beauty of the life around you.